Wednesday, December 30, 2020

New Year's Resolutions: 2021

 It's New Years Resolution time! Everyone's favorite annual Debate Link tradition!

The series is collected here, the 2020 resolutions are here. As you might expect, last year was not the greatest year for nailing one's resolutions.

Met: 1, 3 (in the nick of time!), 9, 10 (in February!), 14, 15, 16 (and for the happiest of reasons!)

Missed: 2, 4 (got distracted and then our Switch became 100% Animal Crossing), 5 (2020...), 6 (2020...), 8 (can't blame 2020 for this one), 11, 12 (2020!!!), 13 (seriously, 2020 can burn in a fire),

Pick 'em: 7 (I'm being generous)

What will 2021 bring? Will it be better than 2020? It has to be, right?

* * *

1) Survive. Kind of dark, but if ever there was a time that this is a resolution worth making....

2) Get vaccinated. Arguably an auxiliary to #1.

3) Successfully move to Portland.

4) Make a new friend in Portland.

5) See my brother in person before we leave Chicago.

6) Finish a draft of a law review article.

7) Find a restaurant in Portland that can credibly (if perhaps only temporarily) hold down the label of "our favorite spot".

8) Use the RingFit Adventure (or do other forms of exercise, but let's be realistic) semi-regularly.

9) Get a crossword puzzle accepted for publication.

10) Unlock all the characters in Spelunky 2.

11) Begin the processes of revising the dissertation into a book.

12) Confirm you actually have a doctorate.

13) Be scheduled to give a talk at a conference or workshop (not including Loyola).

14) Establish contact with someone connected to the Biden administration.

15) Have an inkling of where you might want to live permanently in Portland

16) Attend a professional sports game in Portland (minor leagues count).

Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Oregon Trail

It's hard for me to imagine anyone reads this blog that doesn't either follow me on Facebook or Twitter, but just in case -- I have some big news to share.

Starting in Fall 2021, I will be taking up a position as assistant professor at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.

This has been a very long journey, and I might even share some of the details about it someday. For now, I just want to say that Jill and I are both beyond happy and excited about all aspects of this move. Portland seems great, Lewis & Clark seems great, the salary and benefits seem great, the course package they're offering (which is basically whatever blend of constitutional law I want) seems really great -- we could not be more thrilled.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Things People Blame the Jews For, Volume LVIII: Pop Music

It's well known that Jews are responsible for all the good Christmas carols. But what about more contemporary fare?

Alt-right writer and professional misogynist Roosh V gives the tribe credit where it's due:

Taylor Swift we already knew about, since earlier in this series we witnessed the Jews blamed for her endorsement of former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen's U.S. Senate campaign. But all of pop music? Now that's a coup! Sometimes the antisemites inadvertently pay us the nicest compliments.

Which pop star are you most excited to welcome into the Elders of Zion? I've always had a soft spot for the divine Ms. Katy Perry. Or maybe now we can finally reel in Ariana Grande once and for all!

Tell me your fave in the comments!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Old in Town Roundup

I've arrived in Chicago! I wouldn't characterize myself as "new in town", since I've already lived in Chicago (indeed, in this very building) before. But I am feeling very, very old as I try to unpack various boxes.

Anyway, here's a roundup:

* * *

The Antisemitism Cow finally speaks (beyond just "MOO", that is)!

A pretty big storm is developing at Ole Miss, where a tenure-track professor was summarily fired from his position after criticizing "powerful, racist donors."

Also in academic freedom, albeit garnering less attention: students at the University of Dallas trying to form a racial justice club offering "a welcoming, inclusive community" are encountering stiff resistance from the student government (and some faculty). Opponents claim -- I swear I'm not kidding -- that the club can't be accepted because it would mean conceding that the university might not already be inclusive and welcoming of all students.

Trump issues a new wave of pardons, with special focus on corrupt GOP politicos and American paramilitary operatives implicated in the murder of civilians. Utterly disgraceful.

An interesting and thoughtful interview with incoming Congressman Jamaal Bowman, with special focus on his relationship with the Jewish community (Bowman ousted longtime Rep. Eliot Engel, who is Jewish, in this year's Democratic primary).

Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck, who is also chair of the state party, announces he will refuse to take the COVID vaccine. The GOP has been flirting with anti-vaxx politics for awhile now, but it couldn't have picked a worse time to topple over the edge.

Friday, December 18, 2020

The Sins of One's Friends

A query for my peanut gallery. Consider the following scenarios, all of which involve a potential friendship with someone who it turns out had engaged in conduct you find morally abhorrent (e.g., they embezzled money from a charity -- but you can pick your own example. The point is it's something that you, personally, would find condemnation-worthy and reflective of bad character. As a quick note -- later on in this post, one such example we'll talk about is of a celebrity sexually preying on and grooming young fans). 

Call this "the bad act". Here are some different scenarios for when the bad act happened and when you find out about it:
  1. You meet someone new at a party. They seem like a nice person you'd like to become friends with, so you invite them out for coffee with the intent of striking up a friendship. Later that evening, you find out that this person had, five years ago, done the bad act.
  2. Same as #1, but except instead of the bad act having occurred five years ago, it was committed in the immediate past and was currently in the process of coming to light (with whatever consequences that entails).
  3. You've been friends with someone for several years. They're not necessarily your BFF, but you're pretty close and you like them a lot. You find out, however, that five years before the commencement of your friendship, they had done the bad act. They never had mentioned this part of their history to you.
  4. Same as #3, but here the bad act was committed during the course of your friendship. Again, you had no knowledge of it and your friend had not mentioned it until now.
In which of these scenarios are you most likely to consider yourself a friend of this person one year later?

On the one hand, it stands to reason that one would be more invested in a pre-existing relationship (3 & 4) versus one that hasn't even started yet (1 & 2). Yet one can also imagine more of a feeling of betrayal in that context, whereas for someone you've just met you might be willing to let them explain themselves. The proximity of the wrongdoing seems to touch on whether the person is dodging or at least potentially open to accepting responsibility and accountability. If it's further away, you can say "they're not that person anymore" -- but it might also be the case that they haven't really reckoned with making amends. If the wrong just happened, it may feel more visceral, but there's also more of a direct opportunity to help them make amends and help make whole the people who were hurt at the exact moment where that is likely to be hardest.

On the whole, there are warring impulses here. On the one hand, we do not want to be complicit or indifferent to terrible behavior. To carry on the friendship with a person like that disrespects the victims, it calls into question our own moral code. And on top of that, their conduct hurts us too, even if we are not the primary victim, we are certainly liable to feel wounded or betrayed having been friends with someone under what now perhaps appears to be a false front.

On the other hand, there is the true fact that in some sense a person who has done something terrible is most in need of friends who can support him or her -- not to evade accountability, but to make amends and recompense, and to hopefully rebuild themselves to be better than they were before. If you believe in rehabilitation, you have to believe in the legitimacy of offenders' friends staying friends with the offender and maintaining that relationship -- not blindly so, but genuinely so. I am exceedingly dubious that any sort of rehabilitation or growth can be managed without the continued support of one's personal network; and yet of course the circumstances which demand rehabilitation are those most likely to cause (and justify!) the severing of that network.

Again -- warring impulses.

I've been thinking about this for awhile, sparked in part by a scandal that broke a few months ago at Rooster Teeth (an internet comedy group that I've been a fan of for years now). A popular member of the group, Ryan Haywood, was terminated after it came out that he had been having affairs with teenage fans. There was significant evidence that Haywood was exploiting several power imbalances -- along the dimensions of age (Haywood is 40), celebrity status, and that he was at very least manipulative if not abusive in these relationships -- in order to groom these young women. This was not a "scandal", where someone's consensual extramarital affair or leaked nudes yields tittering and holier-than-thou judging. This was despicable, grotesque, morally abhorrent conduct that has no justification whatsoever. Haywood deserved to be fired, and he deserves all the other consequences falling upon him now in his personal and professional life.

Two of Haywood's (now-ex) coworkers released a video speaking on the situation, and it's a bracing watch. Obviously, I'm not a part of these people's actual lives and the image one gets on cultivated YouTube videos doesn't necessarily reflect "real life." But it really does seem like all the people who were part of this group were genuinely true friends with one another; at the very least they had worked closely together for almost ten years. You can hear the anguish in this video in having to come to terms with someone who they (thought they) knew and who they definitely cared about having done these awful things; as well as guilt in their own role -- however inadvertent -- in being part of the machinery which enabled Haywood's conduct to occur. After all, this was a comedy group; the reason Haywood was a star and a celebrity who had fans he could groom was because of the joint efforts of the entire collective.

To be clear: the coworkers in their video are absolutely unequivocal in condemning Haywood and are explicit that they are by no means the primary victims. But it's also evident that they're in a form of shellshock over the news and are struggling to cope (they mentioned that Rooster Teeth had provided counseling services to its employees in the wake of the incident), and they know others are in a similar position.

From what I can tell, the first they knew of Haywood's bad actions was upon hearing that he was terminated -- it was a total blindside.* I won't claim to be totally plugged into this community, but it does not appear as if this was a case where "rumors" had been burbling for years until finally they became too much for the powers-that-be to ignore. This was not the widely-demanded inevitable conclusion of a scandal that had breached containment. For the most part, Rooster Teeth appears to have initiated the investigation on its own and made the decision to terminate Haywood without there being any significant external pressure on them to do so.

In the above-linked video, one of his former colleagues said the following to fans who were resistant to the idea that Haywood -- someone whom they had admired and laughed with for years -- deserved to be terminated or even were in denial that he had done what he did:
If you haven’t come to terms with [what Haywood did], I understand. I see people in the audience that can’t — I know a lot of people, for years, a lot of people since they were teenagers looked up to him, looked up to us, and they just refuse to believe it. You need to accept it … He is not coming back. He’s gone. I hope he doesn’t come back in any fashion, and we’re never going to talk about him again.

This is, perhaps, the clearest illustration of "cancel culture" operating in an idealized fashion -- actually being about accountability, but being very explicit that this entails fully cutting someone loose ("we're never going to talk about him again."). When they say there's no going to be any retrospective, there's not going to be a reunion, there's not going to be a big conversation about whether he's "done his time" -- that's what this is. And again, it's fully justified in this case. But this case also drove home just how agonizing that process is. It is not the case that severing a relationship with a close friend will ever be easy, no matter what terrible thing they've done. It will never be easy, and I daresay it should never be easy.

* If you're wondering how they could have not known, Haywood apparently made a habit of staying an extra day at the end of conventions and events -- saying that he wanted to spend time in the city or visit friends -- and it was then, after his colleagues had already flown home, that he would meet with his victims.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Buttigieg for Secretary of Transportation

The word is Pete Buttigieg is going to be Biden's nominee for Secretary of Transportation. A few thoughts:

  1. I never quite understand the magnitude of loathing some members of the leftier edge of the Democratic Party had for Buttigieg. This is in spite of the fact that Mayor Pete was one of the few significant candidates running in 2020 that I was never tempted to support. That's because my view was simply that there's too big a gap to jump from "Mayor of South Bend, Indiana" to "President of the Untied States." But that doesn't mean I have any animosity towards him occupying other positions.
  2. While I think Buttigieg is perfectly fine for a Democratic cabinet appointment, generally, I'm not sure what relevant experience he brings to the field of transportation, specifically. When I think of the core issues in transportation policy a Democratic administration should prioritize, my mind immediately turns to mass transportation infrastructure in large cities. Buttigieg's small-town guy vibes don't seem particularly germane to that issue. Maybe he's got more thoughts on expanding high speed rail and environmental issues?
  3. I believe it was Matt Yglesias who pointed out that, to the extent Buttigieg does want to use his DOT posting as a springboard for even higher office, he'll probably need to do something eye-catching (it's not like the DOT is naturally on the media radar, after all). So that might engender confidence that he'll set an ambitious agenda -- and that would be a good thing.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Why Does Anyone Want To Be Mayor of New York?

As a public Max Rose fan, I was happy to see he's apparently bouncing back from his 2020 re-election defeat and pursuing a run for mayor of New York City. The re-election defeat was disappointing, but it should not be a career-ender -- along with Joe Cunningham (SC) and maybe Kendra Horn (OK), Rose's 2018 win was probably among the biggest upsets of the last midterm and was always going to be difficult turf to hold onto once the blue wave inevitably receded. So I'm glad he's getting back on the horse, though I suspect it will be a crowded field and (to the extent anybody cares what I, a non-New York, thinks) I'd want to give everyone a chance to make their case.

But really, my main reaction when I read Rose's announcement was to wonder why anyone would want the job of New York City mayor? From my vantage point, the mayor of New York appears to the official home base of political no-win situations. There's a million-and-one interest groups, a barely functioning bureaucracy, all the challenges facing any urban center (but bigger, because New York), all with just enough influence to be blamed but not enough to actually hold responsibility.

I mean, look at de Blasio. I remember when he first ran for the post, he had a progressive-populist left (remember when the NYPD literally turned their backs on him? That'd be progressive gold if it happened in 2019 instead!). Now, six years into his term, everybody hates him. He almost impresses in the degree to which he's forged a cross-city, cross-ideology, cross-everything coalition united around the core conceit of despising Bill de Blasio (the pandemic isn't helping things, but this dynamic predates that). De Blasio's predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, was rich enough that essentially nothing mattered about his tenure, but it certainly didn't end up helping him one whit when he ran for President this year. And before that we have of course Rudy Giuliani, who managed to take a gift-wrapped political present as "America's mayor" and parlay it into perhaps the most embarrassing presidential campaign of my lifetime (and following that ... well, we all know where that story goes). Who on earth looks at that history and thinks "me next!"?

To be clear: I'm glad that there still are talented figures who want the job. It'd be far worse if they didn't; a place like New York needs and deserves smart, ambitious politicians who are willing to tackle the myriad problems it faces as the biggest city in America. And there's an alternate universe where mayor of New York is considered a real prize.

But boy oh boy, count me as glad I'm not one of the candidates for the job. Whoever ends up emerging out the other side as the next mayor of the Big Apple, wish them luck, because I'll be they need it.

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

The Empathy Drought

2020 was a rough year for a lot of people -- an understatement if there ever was one. The pandemic has upended countless lives -- hundreds of thousands dead, many more seriously sickened or caring or grieving for those who are, countless lost jobs, terror at the prospect of losing one's home or one's retirement or one's livelihood. It's bad out there.

And while all that is going on, all the normal bad things that can happen to a person are still happening to lots and lots of people. People are going through bad breakups. People are losing their dream job, or are passed over for the promotion they worked their entire careers for. They're injured in accidents, they're discovering their partner cheated on them -- all this stuff is still happening.

These people are in a peculiar position. Under normal circumstances, they could assuredly say they're having a bad year. But in 2020, it often feels churlish to make such a claim. If they did, everyone would instantly assume it was bad because of something pandemic related -- a health scare, trouble managing quarantine, loss of a job, whatever. One can't easily correct that by saying "no, I'm having a bad year for reasons wholly unrelated to COVID." Our paradigm for "bad 2020" is centered entirely on the orbit of the coronavirus. There's scarcely any room left for badness outside that orbit to penetrate our consciousness.

I was talking with a student the other day who, it is fair to say, is having a rough term. She's a transfer student, which is difficult under any circumstances but especially when all learning is remote, and early this semester she got into a car accident. Her injuries weren't life-threatening, but they were serious enough to require ongoing care that's interfered with her ability to keep up with her classwork, and she's struggled to catch back up. Suffice to say, her first term at Berkeley has not gone the way she had hoped. But when we were talking about this, she rushed to say "I can't complain, I don't have the virus, my family is healthy, many have it much worse" -- to which I responded "well, you could complain a little." Circumstances like these are ones which entitle one to feel kind of down and to solicit the care and concern of others. But my student was hit with the one-two punch of an objectively terrible few weeks, and then the guilt of having the temerity to feel bad about having an objectively terrible few weeks.

There are all sorts of mundane bad events which normally would allow one to reach out to one's community and support network for empathy, compassion, and care -- even just of the pure "that sucks, I feel for you" variety. But right now, a lot of us feel like these resources are unavailable to us. We can't get them. This is the empathy drought. It is not, to be clear, a moral failing on anyone's part. It's a drought not because people are being stingy with their empathy. Much the opposite -- we're in a drought because the resource is overtaxed. We're using all of our emotional reserves to comfort those afflicted (in the broad sense) by COVID and its effects, and so we just don't have the energy to apply it to "ordinary" misfortunes.

It's an interesting position to be in, to be suffering from this drought. Because it is a form of suffering. It hurts to be going through these events, and then it hurts to lose access to comfort and care, and then it hurts to experience that burbling of resentment that the Coronavirus deprives one even of the soothing balm of communal empathy, and then it hurts to feel selfish enough to be resentful that one isn't receiving due comfort and care when so many are suffering so much worse.

I have no idea what to do about this. But it is a phenomenon I've observed, and one that I imagine is afflicting a lot of people who are hurting in "normal" ways right now.

Sunday, December 06, 2020

The Chicago Return

Next term I'll be visiting at DePaul Law School, teaching constitutional law. That means that this week, I'm moving back to Chicago. The movers come tomorrow and Tuesday, and we fly out Wednesday, so today is our last "real" day in our Berkeley apartment. 

I have very fond feelings towards Chicago -- I've often described it as my favorite "big" city (I consider Minneapolis and DC to be "mid-sized cities") -- and so I'm happy to heading back. We're actually moving into the same apartment building I lived in my last year in Chicago (all the way back in 2011), which makes for some nice continuity.

Of course, moving to Chicago in the dead of winter after six years in Berkeley will be an ... experience. And the idea of going anywhere in the midst of a pandemic is pretty anxiety-producing on its own. But assuming I survive the move itself -- literally -- I'm glad to be heading back.

There is some bittersweetness, obviously, in leaving Berkeley. While I've never thought of myself as a Bay Area lifer, the apartment I'm in now is actually the only apartment Jill and I have ever re-signed a lease in. Every other place we've lived in, we've lived in for no more than one year. It was really nice to have a place that we actually were able to settle into and call home, and I'm going to miss that terribly.

Also, my friends in Berkeley. I'll miss them too.

Moving is tough under the best of circumstances, and these circumstances aren't anywhere close to "best". But I feel fortunate I'm heading to a place I know and know I like, and of course, I'm going with a wife whom I know and know I like. So in the end, I'd say it nets out positive.

Friday, December 04, 2020

I (Don't) Hart Election Challenges

At the moment, the margin in Iowa's second congressional district is a whopping six votes. Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks (again, that name!) holds the infinitesimal lead over Democrat Rita Hart in the open seat race, and has been certified the winner by Iowa election officials.

Hart has suggested she will forgo court challenges and instead take the race directly to the House. This, of course, puts Democrats in an awkward position. We've been harping on the sanctity of certified election results for weeks now in the face of completely unsubstantiated fraud claims by the Trump campaign. But now Democratic officials are being asked to overturn those certified results for their own benefit.

And look -- there's obvious differences between a race decided by tens of thousands of votes that isn't going to anywhere in a recount, versus one decided in the single digits. And moreover, Hart is not to my knowledge making any spurious claims about fraud -- she thinks a more rigorous counting process will pick up some ballots wrongfully discounted and push her into the lead (such inferences are rarely justified, but in the context of -- again! -- a six vote margin, they might actually bear out).

But still, the optics here are just terrible, and she's placing House Democrats in an awful position. Given the disappointing underperformance of House Dems this cycle, it's frustrating to lose a seat by such a tiny margin (and there's yet another House seat, New York's 22nd, which currently sits on a margin of less than 20 votes). Yet right now, more than ever, we can't be playing clever games with voting certification. Hart's decision to forgo court challenges and instead force the House to act is wretched politics, and I for one do not appreciate it.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

America is a Center-Left Nation

For as long as I can remember, there has been a ritual declaration spoken after every election: "America is a center-right nation." It doesn't seem to matter who wins the election or by what margin; this refrain has become tantamount to a tradition among the pundit class, and traditions are not to be dispensed with lightly.

Yet I submit that it has been increasingly clear that America is, in actuality, a center-left nation.

Now, to some extent, this depends on what your baseline is. Compared to Sweden, we're still quite conservative. Compared to Russia, by contrast, we look a lot more progressive. But judging on the general spectrum of American politics, the fact is that Democrats have won the national popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. A Republican has won a popular plurality twice in my lifetime, and one of those times was when I was two years old. Certainly, the margins aren't overwhelming, and it does not seem to be the case that even the median "Democratic voter" want the sort of full-throated left-progressivism that some activists would desire. But given a choice where their voices count equally, Americans have been relatively consistent in their preferences over the past few decades: they want to be led by Democrats -- not necessarily the most progressive wing of the Democratic Party, but Democrats. Hence: center-left.

It would be nice if, in between the seven and eight hundredth essay on what Democrats need to do to reach out to Trump voters, some time was spent by the media internalizing this state of affairs, and contemplating what it means for a GOP whose response to this reality has dispensed with the idea that it should be forced to do anything as crass as "win more votes" in favor of burrowing ever-deeper into anti-democratic quasi-authoritarianism.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Finding Agreement Suspicious

Here's a question for my loyal readers: Is there any position you can think of that you support but that, if you hear someone else supports it, you become more suspicious of them politically?

Perhaps intuitively that makes no sense. If you back a given stance, why would you look sideways at someone else who shares your view? But there are circumstances where I imagine it could make sense -- for example, when you have cause to believe most other people who hold your view do so for bad reasons, are using it as a stepping stone to enable policies you don't support, or that the view most commonly is a valid proxy for other positions one strongly opposes.

Imagine, for example, an African-American opponent of affirmative action, who believes that such programs engender White resentment while doing little to help the most disadvantaged in the Black community. Such a person might nonetheless conclude that most White opponents of affirmative action come to their opposition for other, less tasteful motivations, and so view them with political suspicion. If the person is generally liberal otherwise, they might recognize that most affirmative action opponents are politically conservative and that persons who loudly trumpet their opposition to affirmative action often are especially conservative (and even more especially-so on racial issues). Any of these could give cause to view your putative compatriots a bit askance.

One can imagine other circumstances as well. Someone who supports a ban on assault weapons but not a total prohibition on the sale of handguns might believe that many people who back the former do so in order to make the latter more palatable or feasible -- essentially a slippery slope argument. Where one has multi-peaked preferences (e.g., one prefers only an assault weapons ban > no gun ban > complete gun ban), then one might not want to empower who share your support for an assault weapons ban on the theory that they, unlike you, want  to go much further than that (see this article by Eugene Volokh for more on how these mechanisms work).

So I'll pitch the question again: Can you think of any policy areas where this applies to you? Positions that you hold, but where you're suspicious of most other people who claim to hold them? It's an interesting question, I think.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Who Does High Turnout Help?

For as long as I can remember, it has been accepted wisdom that Democrats benefit from higher turnout. This is the view that motivates "if we can just get more people off the sidelines, Democrats will win every election", as well as more pessimistic declarations of how Democrats fare in midterms, off-cycle races, and run-off elections in, oh, let's say, Georgia.

But is it true today? The 2020 election is giving me a bit of pause.

2020 was a big turnout year. We had record turnout -- the highest percentage in at least 100 years, in all likelihood -- and that's with COVID throwing a wrench in things. But while Joe Biden won, and won clearly in the national popular vote, it's not the case that the additional turnout was all a tidal wave of new blue voters. Trump, too, has shown himself to be a turnout machine for the red column. Texas is a good example, where Joe Biden added 1.4 million votes to Hillary Clinton's 2016 total, only to see Donald Trump roughly keep pace by stacking an additional 1.2 million votes on top of his performance in the prior election. That's a lot more people voting, but not a huge net gain for Democrats -- especially given the general "blue-ing" of the state that had been observed over the past four years.

So what's going on? One thing to consider is who the marginal non-voter is, and who they're likely to support if they do come out to the polls. Non-voters are likely less politically engaged and aware -- the classic "independent" voter (which is to say, low-information and ideologically incoherent), and probably exhibit less trust in and affinity towards American political institutions generally. In our current climate, it's far from clear that these aren't easier for a Trumpist style populist politician to win.

More than that, though, is the issue of the broader realignment we're seeing in partisan identity. Historically, the case for Democrats being aided by high turnout has I think relied on the notion that Democratic voters skew poorer, and poorer voters are less likely to turn out, so the marginal vote gained by heightened turnout is more likely to be a Democratic one. But while it is not the case, contra some lazy takes, that Democrats are now the party of wealthy coastal elites, it is the case that the biggest divide between the parties right now does not track class but rather education. Democrats are overperforming among college-educated voters (of all economic backgrounds), Republicans do much better among those lacking a college degree (again, regardless of economic background). And highly-educated voters are a high turnout group -- they're likely to hit the polls even when other actors do not.

So it's quite possible that reductions in turnout could end up, counterintuitively, aiding Democratic candidates. You can imagine dividing voters into different turnout "tranches", where the highest tranche turns out in every election (that is, even in ones where nobody else votes), the ones below that in slightly more active races, the ones below that in moderately high turnout affairs, and so on down the line until the final tranche which never votes at all. If Democrats are disproportionately represented among the highest tranches, they'd be better served if elections remain low-turnout affairs, since they'd be the only ones showing up to the polls.

Again, this is just a hypothesis and an oversimplification at that. But I do think the education realignment may require adjusting some of our assumptions regarding who benefits from high turnout.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Does Trump 2024 Clear the GOP Field?

Donald Trump says he's seriously considering running for President in 2024. While you might think that's tantamount to a concession that he didn't win re-election in 2020, Trump was notorious for claiming that he'd run for a third term anyway because -- hey, why should the law stop him now?

Anyway, I'm curious: If Trump runs in 2024, does he clear the GOP field? On the one hand, it's hard to imagine that the Republican Party will want to go with the guy who lost the last election. And four years should, one hopes, be enough time to break the spell that Trump has cast over his party where virtually every Republican of note just crumbles into quivering jelly at the thought of standing up to him.

But still -- how does a prominent Republican run against Trump 2024? In 2016, they could and did call him a demagogue, a racist, an idiot, and an extremist. But of course, 2016 proved those are selling points for today's GOP voter, and nothing has changed in the interim. What has changed is that we've witnessed four years of prominent GOP figures kowtowing to Trump at every opportunity. After clambering over one another to see who can be the biggest Trumpist suck up, it's hard to see how they could attack Trump in the context of a primary campaign without looking ridiculous. What does Tom Cotton or Josh Hawley or Nikki Haley say to make the argument they're better than their Godhead figure?

Personally, I think someone should start a whisper campaign on Twitter that Trump was betrayed by the GOP establishment and that in 2024 he should run on a Trump branded third party. Of course his defeat wasn't his fault -- how could it be? Rev him up with paranoid conspiracism and let him wreak havoc on the right for a change. Could be fun to watch.

Republicans Are Trying Their Mightiest To Ring That Bell

 Shortly before election day, I argued that the right analogy to apply to the efforts of Republican judges to get Trump elected was not "thumb on the scale" but rather "the carnival game where you smack a target with a hammer and see if you're strong enough to win the bell." We're two weeks distant from election day, Joe Biden's victory has only gotten clearer since then, but what's gotten even clearer than that is how right I was regarding the metaphor (with the sole caveat that we can substitute "Republican political officials" for "Republican judges").

They really are trying their best to make the steal. It doesn't look like they're strong enough to actually ring the bell, but let's not in any way diminish that this is their agenda. We're going to stave off a frontal attack on our democracy, but it's shameful that it is even coming to this.

Saturday, November 07, 2020

How Does a Defeated Trump Affect the Georgia Race?

Barring a turnaround in North Carolina or a surprise upset from Al "Bear Killer" Gross in Alaska (and the latter does say he think he'll win after all the mail-ins are counted), the season finale of the horror series known as "2020" will be a royal rumble Senate two-fer in Georgia. Incumbent Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler will face challenger Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in a state that Joe Biden just squeaked out a victory in.

Other have written on the best positive strategy for Democrats to take in the race (pushing the "3 M" approach -- Medicaid expansion, minimum wage increase, and marijuana legalization). And it's well-known that Democrats have severely struggled in Georgia run-offs in the past. But right now, I'm curious how the shadow of a defeated Trump affects the dynamics of this race.

It is (as much as I hate to admit it) a truth that Donald Trump has been a big turnout booster for Republicans. Witness Texas, where Joe Biden swelled Hillary Clinton's vote tally by 1.4 million, but Trump managed to keep pace with 1.2 million additional votes of his own. Even without him at the top of the ticket, it's possible that Trump could boost GOP turnout in the run-off if he campaigned aggressively for the GOP ticket, feeding on resentment and spurious claims of voter fraud, inspiring red staters looking for vengeance and the need to head off a Democratic Senate majority.

But Trump is Trump, and he doesn't seem likely to react to defeat by working on someone else's behalf. He's going to be sullen and depressed and whiny, and I doubt he'll be much interested in intervening in the Georgia race at all. If anything, he might put Perdue and Loeffler into a tight spot by continuing to frivolously contest the validity of the election, forcing them to either actively disavow Dear (Fallen) Leader or come off like anti-democratic extremists.

More broadly, it is far from clear that Trumpists will continue to turn out once the aura of invisibility and the joy of "cry more libs" no longer can be guaranteed. It is wrong to say that Trumpism is dead in America -- it continues to be the dominant faction of the GOP, and that isn't likely to change anytime soon. But it is possible that Trumpists will find it difficult to replicate the enthusiasm Donald Trump inspired with their standard-bearer broken. Particularly if the GOP starts the fratricide before the run-off day, one could see a far more energized Georgia Democratic Party facing off against a demoralized, frustrated, "take my ball and go home" Georgia GOP. And that might give Ossoff and Warnock the space they need to pull what I still think would be an upset victory, and hand Democrats the Senate.

Friday, November 06, 2020

A 2020 Election Thank You

When Joe Biden secured the Democratic nomination for President, I had several friends declare that the race was over -- it was impossible that Biden could beat Donald Trump in the general election.

Not "it will be hard". Not "it will be an uphill battle". Not "it depends on how events develop over the next few months". Impossible.

Well, it did turn out to be hard -- perhaps harder than the last batch of polls suggested it would be. But it wasn't impossible. Because Joe Biden is going to be the next President of the United States.

Biden fought hard against an incumbent President and Republican Party who mobilized every tool, trick, and power they had -- legal and not -- to stay in office. It is hard to dislodge incumbent Presidents -- this is only the second time it has occurred in my lifetime -- and while it felt touch-and-go early on Tuesday evening (as we all promptly forgot everything we had told ourselves about the "red mirage"), when all is said and done Biden will have a thumping margin in the popular vote and most likely over 300 electoral votes. A pretty sizable victory, all in all.

So I think we should take the time to thank and to celebrate all the people who worked really hard to make this happen. Not just Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, though them too obviously. But the entire spectrum of the progressive community that came together to make today a reality.

The Black community, and particularly Black women, who have been the soul and the backbone of the Democratic Party for years. That includes great leaders like Stacey Abrams who poured her heart into making Georgia competitive. But it also includes everyday, rank-and-file men and women who did the yeoman's work of canvassing, ballot-counting, organizing, and most importantly, voting. They have displayed a faith in the American promise that the rest of us had no right to expect from them, and the margins they provided in cities like Atlanta, Detroit, and Philadelphia made the difference in this election. Thank you.

Bernie Sanders, who ran in the primary but was always crystal clear that once Joe Biden secured the nomination, he was all-in on supporting him as the only valid option for a presidential ballot. Thank you. And thank you to his supporters in "the squad", for whom Biden obviously wasn't their first choice, but still poured their energies into getting out the vote for him at the top of the ticket and Democrats down the ballot.

Thank you to the Latino and Latinas in Arizona, who organized to turn the land of Joe Arpaio into a state with two Democratic senators and whose electoral votes are in blue column. It was just a few years ago when Arizona was in the news as the nation's leader in grotesque, reactionary anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment. The resilience of the Latino community in Arizona came to full fruition this year, and it is not going to fade anytime soon.

Thank you to the Jewish community, which stayed strong in the face of unprecedented antisemitism and violent threats from White Supremacists emboldened by this administration. We turned out more strongly for Joe Biden than we have for any presidential nominee in decades. We voted our values, and made clear that we are an integral part of America's progressive coalition.

Thank you to Katie Porter, who flipped a GOP-held seat in 2018, shined as an outstanding progressive leader in the House, and held her seat decisively in 2020. And thank you to Lucy McBath, who also flipped a GOP-held seat in 2018, has become a leader in fighting gun violence, and also held her seat by a wide margin this year. Our caucus is stronger with both of you in it.

Thank you to the Muslim community, which turned out strong for Biden, particularly in states like Michigan where it counted the most. Thank you to all the proverbial suburban moms who were rallying against Trumpism from day one. Thanks to all the activists at groups like Indivisible which created a movement and an energy that sustained many of us for these long four years.

And finally, thank you to the Democrats who *didn't* win in 2020. There were some seats that were big upsets in 2018 that we knew would be very hard to hold onto with Trump at the top of the ticket. Doug Jones, Joe Cunningham, and (it appears) Max Rose may not be returning to Congress, but they were great leaders who fought hard for progressive values. We owe them a debt too. Likewise, some challengers ran strong races but ultimately came up short. Some are identified as on the "progressive" wing, like Kara Eastman in Nebraska or Jaime Harrison in South Carolina; some are considered more "establishment", like Theresa Greenfield in Iowa or Dan Feehan in Minnesota. Regardless of where they fall on the party's ideological spectrum, they worked hard to make America better, and deserve our gratitude for trying.

Yes, we can wonder if it could have gone even better. Yes, we can mourn that we didn't get the decisive, overwhelming repudiation of Trumpism that was deserved. But still. Politics remains the long, slow boring through hard boards, and today was a day of progress -- always slower progress than we'd like, but progress nonetheless. And the many, many people who fought hard to make this result happen deserve gratitude and respect. 

This is a post that could go on forever -- there are so many we owe so much to, and I wish I could list every single one of them. But the broad point is this: We knew this would be a contest. We knew nothing was guaranteed. We knew there are no sure-things in politics. But those who said it was impossible were wrong. They were flat wrong. It was possible. We did it, together.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Election 2020 Liveblog

Should I do this? No. But it's a tradition. And what are we without our traditions?

This post will be updated throughout the evening. Check in for breaking news.

[I've changed the format so the newest posts are at the top rather than the bottom. Oh, and all times are Pacific, of course]

***

4:12 AM: LOL I haven't slept at all. But I am feeling a bit more sanguine about Biden's overall chances. He's up in Nevada, Arizona, and Wisconsin, and I expect him to hold those leads. The math looks good for him in Michigan too. Those alone are enough to put him at 270, but Pennsylvania and Georgia are still basically toss-ups at this point, and North Carolina isn't wholly out of the range of possibility.

12:58 AM: I'm calling it a night. Praying for good returns from the cities of Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan (and North Carolina, while we're at it).

12:25 AM: It is flat wild that we could simultaneously be seeing a story of "Biden underperforms among Latinos" and "Biden overperforms in Arizona."

12:21 AM: Speaking of hovering right around 50%, Senator David Perdue in Georgia is floating at that mark. In his case, not cracking 50% would lead to a (non-instant) runoff against Democratic challenge Jon Ossoff. Georgia is one of the states where reports are there are a lot of mailed in Democratic votes still waiting to be counted.

12:05 AM: Susan Collins continues to hover right at that 50% mark, which matters because if she doesn't get an absolute majority it's an instant run-off. Now that won't matter if she's, like, at 49.9%, but the point is she doesn't necessarily win just because she holds a plurality.

11:59 PM: Iowa looked like there might be some good news at the end of the campaign season, but it didn't pan out. Democrats are down in three of the state's four House seats (they had gone holding three of four). In the open but D-held IA-02, Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks (that name though!) is up by less than 300 votes over Democrat Rita Hart. Republicans are winning by a larger (though not large) margin against incumbent Rep. Abby Finkenaeur in the IA-01, and are narrowly losing in their bid to unseat Rep. Cindy Axne in the IA-03. (Axne's continued national prominence is crucial to my crossword puzzlebuilding needs, so I'm especially glad she's winning her race).

11:18 PM: It's perhaps unsurprising that the big upset winners of an election in 2018 are both people who really deserve good things but also among the most likely to lose in 2020. We've already bade goodbye to Senator Doug Jones in Alabama. Rep. Max Rose hasn't conceded yet, but it's looking grim for him in the NY-11. And there was just a call in the SC-01 for Nancy Mace, who unseats Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham.

11:13 PM: Also in local California races, there was some campaign drama in a few state legislature races that may make them of general interest. Incumbent Democratic State Senator Scott Wiener weirdly became one of the faces of GOP conspiracy mongering, but he's leading fellow Democrat Jackie Fielder 59-41 (Fielder was challenging Wiener from the left, although Wiener was already pretty liberal). Meanwhile, rabid antisemite and all around whackjob Maria Estrada was rematching against State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, but Rendon once again is holding down the lead 57-43.

11:12 PM: Down in Los Angeles, challenger George Gascon, running a "progressive prosecutor" campaign, is leading incumbent District Attorney Jackie Lacey by a 54/46 spread. Both are Democrats.

11:07 PM: No call, but with 100% reporting Carolyn Bourdeaux (D) leads Rep. Rich McCormick (R) 51.2% to 48.8% in the GA-07. Nice D-to-R flip.

10:40 PM: Alas, Dem. Rep. Collin Peterson's luck finally ran out in the MN-07, a truly deep red district that he and he alone had any prayer of holding.

10:38 PM: Obviously a lot of states have a had wonky vote reporting patterns, but one of the weirdest has been Virginia. It's mostly flown under the radar because it's not competitive at the state level, but there are some important House races there where it's really clear some segment of the vote has not been counted yet. Dem Rep. Abigail Spanberger is not some shoo-in to hold her VA-07 seat, but she's not going to lose it by 20 points either.

10:36 PM: Hey! Mississippi voters approved a new, treason-less state flag!

10:34 PM: Remember that time Trump flat out told us his election strategy was to hope the race was uncalled on election night evening, then try to stop Pennsylvania from counting its votes? And now the race is uncalled on election night evening, and he's yelling about how its fraud for Pennsylvania to keep counting its votes?

10:24 PM: While Joe Biden is projected to take the NE-02's electoral vote, GOP Rep. Don Bacon still holds a narrow lead over challenger Kara Eastman. A hearty screw you to former Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford, who lost to Bacon, then, after his wife lost in the Democratic primary to Eastman, endorsed Bacon in what was clearly a fit of pique. Don't know if that ended up making the difference, but still.

10:21 PM: First year Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK) has conceded to Republican challenger Stephanie Bice. I think we're likely to see a small GOP gain in the House -- not enough to flip the chamber or even come that close to it, but they'll net positive.

10:11 PM: Now I'm seeing the mood of commentators shift on both Wisconsin and Georgia, both are said to look more favorable for Biden.

10:08 PM: I've heard the scenario where Biden wins 270-268 based on the NE-02's one electoral vote described as the "Nebraska Cornwhisker", and I love that.

10:05 PM: Word is that Biden is looking good in Nebraska's second district (Nebraska allocates its electoral votes separately in each congressional district). That's actually a pretty big deal, as it alleviates some of the "tied election" scenarios which would have been a true nightmare (I mean, truer than the nightmare we're all living right now).

9:43 PM: Wisconsin is looking rough -- Biden doesn't absolutely need it, but it'd be a big help.

9:39 PM: Steve Bullock is still running about seven points ahead of Joe Biden in Montana. May not be enough.

9:35 PM: It's sobering to think how much rides on Democrats not just winning, but winning the trifecta, just to get to a place where "winning more votes" bears some casual relationship to "winning elections."

9:26 PM: This. Will. Be. The. Year! Exit polls suggest Jews went for Joe Biden by a 77-21 margin.

9:23 PM: While Minnesota has been called for Biden (and I think Tina Smith looks fine there too), there's another nail-biter shaping up in the MN-01 -- a rematch of one of just two D-to-R flips in 2018. Incumbent GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn is up by about 1 point over Dan Feehan. Minnesota has lots of teeny-tiny counties so it's hard to get a bead on what's outstanding.

9:00 PM: There are reportedly two million mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania that still need to be counted, and these skew heavily Democratic. They're absolutely more than enough to tip the total over to Biden.

8:45 PM: Last year, California returns slowly shifted bluer after election day as mail-in ballots continued to flow in. If that's the case again, then Dems are in very good shape in some California House races. Several vulnerable incumbents from  the 2018 wave, such as Gil Cisneros and Harley Rouda, are currently ahead by decent margins. Moreover, Ammar Campa-Najjar is currently just ahead of former Rep. Darrell Issa, who is trying to hold this open seat for the GOP, and Christy Smith is ahead of GOP Rep. Mike Garcia in the rematch of the special election Garcia won to flip the seat less-than-one-term Democratic Rep. Katie Hill resigned from. But again -- it's hard to know exactly how tallies will flow in 2020.

8:39 PM: In local news, Berkeley City Councilor Cheryl Davila, who made some news after she tried to appoint Hatem Bazian as her emergency alternate, is currently down in her re-election race to Terry Taplin. However, no candidate is close to 50%, and I think Berkeley does some sort of ranked-choice instant run-off? Anyway, I'm not sure if this means she's lost or not -- but it's news.

8:35 PM: In addition to the presidential and senate calls, there's some good downballot news in Arizona. Hiral Tipirneni is holding a ~4 point lead over incumbent GOP Rep. David Schweikert. And Democrats are also currently ahead in the important, if somewhat obscure, Corporation Commissioner race.

8:28 PM: We're definitely not getting a full call tonight. Pennsylvania, in particular, looks like a total hot mess -- which is great, because it also ranks number one in "state most likely to be stolen outright by the GOP."

8:26 PM: I lay down for a few minutes, and when I get back up they've called Arizona for Biden. I should lie down more often.

8:03 PM: They're projecting a Mark Kelly victory in Arizona. And while Kelly is running slightly ahead of Biden, that call certainly gives caused for optimism on the presidential side too.

7:55 PM: Just so you know I'm not judging, the below message absolutely includes me.

7:47 PM: We spent literally months repeating, mantra-like, "it won't be over on election night, stay calm" and now we're still like everybody panic!!!!

7:45 PM: It looks like it will be GOP Senator Kelly Loeffler facing Democrat Raphael Warnock in the Georgia special Senate election run-off. My gut is that Warnock runs stronger against Loeffler, but run-offs in Georgia are tough.

7:42 PM: Over in Iowa, things remain unsettled. Democratic Senate challenger Theresa Greenfield is beating her marks in Linn County, but not quite reaching them in Johnson County.

7:39 PM: The big question in North Carolina is just how much of the outstanding vote tally is in Wake County, which is a massive Democratic stronghold.

7:32 PM: I guess the other state to keep on an eye on re: Trump's late Latino surge is Nevada.

7:28 PM: Checking in on Montana, Governor Steve Bullock, challenging for Republican Steve Daines' Senate seat, is currently leading, but looks to be slightly underperforming his desired margins in key counties. Still early there though (although the story of the evening has been late votes shifting GOP).

7:22 PM: I see Republican Nicole Malliotakis has declared victory in the NY-11, which means Rep. Max Rose (D) has been unseated. Rose was a huge upset winner in 2018, but it still stings -- he was one of my favorite first-year Reps.

7:13 PM: We might remember that Arizona slowly crawled into the Democratic column in 2018, but right now its early vote reports favor Joe Biden by a large margin. He's up by just under 10%, with Mark Kelly doing even better on the Senate side. Dems are also leading in the AZ-06, which would be a Dem flip.

7:09 PM: Republicans look to have flipped two south Florida House seats that Democrats won in 2018 -- riding on the strong GOP performance among Florida Latinos (Cuban and, from what I've heard, non-Cuban alike).

7:05 PM: Philadelphia officials say they won't be reporting any more mail-in ballot results tonight. As Matt Yglesias asks, do they have something better to do this evening?

7:01 PM: In the OH-01, Rep. Steve Chabot is clinging to a sub-1 point lead over his Democratic challenger. But while virtually all his turf in Warren County has reported, Kate Schroder (and Joe Biden, for that matter) still have plenty left in Hamilton County. Have I mentioned how gerrymandered to hell and back Ohio is, incidentally?

6:59 PM: And just as I write that, I see a call for Lindsey Graham in the South Carolina Senate race.

6:57 PM: Checking into the South Carolina Senate race, where Jaime Harrison appears to be running about 2 points better than Joe Biden. In Berkeley County, where his target is to lose by a 47/50 spread, Harrison is losing by ... 48/51.

6:54 PM: Digging more deeply into North Carolina, one bit of concern is that Union County, which is one of the few larger counties that's strongly pro-Trump, has barely reported at all. Trump probably will net 30,000 votes there.

6:49 PM:  Biden might well squeak out the win in North Carolina, which would be huge.

6:41 PM: Ohio continues to narrow, but it really does look like Biden has far more pockets of votes outstanding than does Trump.

6:36 PM: Sadly, in Kansas Barbara Bollier's numbers have receded quite a bit. With just about all of Johnson County reported, she's only winning 52/44. While that's absolutely a good result objectively for Democrats, it's short of the 57/40 benchmark she's shooting for.

6:31 PM: New Jersey votes to legalize marijuana.

6:30 PM: The AP results are coming in much faster than the New York Times, but the New York Times' site is so much easier to navigate. Frustrating on my end.

6:28 PM: We're definitely having at least one QAnon conspiracy theorist enter Congress (Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia), but there's a chance to stop a second one from joining her out of Colorado. In the CO-03, four points separate Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush from GOPer Lauren Boebert, who upset incumbent GOP Rep. Scott Tipton in the primary (Boebert is currently leading).

6:25 PM: In a race that only attracted attention very late, the AR-02 (centered around Little Rock) is currently razor-tight, with Rep. French Hill (R) up by less than 2 points over Democrat Joyce Elliot. Not altogether clear how the balance of remaining votes are distributed.

6:23 PM: Some places I'm currently feeling good about include Ohio(!) generally, and the IN-05 race specifically (where the Democratic challenger is currently down by a smidge, but appears to have a good chunk of votes in Indianapolis still outstanding).

6:15 PM: Seeing an early call for John Hickenlooper in Colorado, which would mark the first Senate flip of the night (though presumably Alabama will be called for Tommy Tuberville sooner rather than later).

6:05 PM: North Carolina keeps creep creep creeping along. But there are a couple of very interesting House races there too (in addition to two expected Dem flips, made possible by undoing an earlier GOP gerrymander). In the NC-09, better known as the district that had to redo its election after the GOP candidate was caught trying to steal it, incumbent GOP Rep. Dan Bishop is up only 1 point over Dem challenger Cynthia Wallace with a lot of Mecklenberg (a Dem stronghold) left to report. And in the NC-08, incumbent GOP Rep. Richard Hudson is leading Democrat Patricia Timmons-Goodson by just 2 in a race that saw some late spending.

5:59 PM: Right now, the place where the apparent late Latino swing towards Trump worries me most may be Arizona.

5:57 PM: The big question in North Carolina: how much of a boost will Republicans get in the walk-up vote?

5:55 PM: I think a lot of Democratic observers kind of mentally wrote off Ohio (at best, it was something we could retake in a landslide), but Biden seems to be doing very well there. Kind of the anti-Florida -- which perhaps goes to Biden overperforming among White voters and underperforming among Latino voters.

5:53 PM: Party-switcher Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R) is locked in a tight battle with Democratic challenger Amy Kennedy. He's up 2 points now with a little over half in. Definitely someone who I hope gets done in by karma.

5:51 PM: Fulton County, Georgia -- aka, Atlanta, a huge Democratic area -- is experiencing reporting delays due to a burst pipe in the building (... 2020, am I right?). Anyway, that probably has something to do with the depressed blue tallies in the Peach State.

5:46 PM: What's the matter with Kansas? I'll tell you what: Democrat Barbara Bollier is so far hitting her margin in Johnson County (Kansas City) -- she's up 59-41, her target is 57/40.

5:40 PM: In keeping with the generally early positive news out of Ohio, Kate Schroder is looking strong right now in her challenge to Rep. Steve Chabot (R) in the OH-01. She's up 9 with about half in, and if anything it looks like more of the bluer part of the district remains outstanding.

5:35 PM: At the moment, Biden is running about four points ahead of M.J. Hegar in Texas (or if you prefer, Trump is running about four points behind John Cornyn).

5:28 PM: The counterpoint to "Biden's woes are limited to Cubans in Florida" is if "Biden's woes are actually with Latino voters generally." We'll see!

5:25 PM: North Carolina is one of those states where apparently mail-in vs. walk-up votes are being tallied at different times, so I don't want to get ahead of anything in looking at the results (even though quite a bit of the state has reported, with Biden currently up 9).

5:21 PM: If you forced me to hazard a guess at this point, I'd favor Trump in Texas. It's purpling, but it's still not quite there yet.

5:16 PM: Texas looking agonizingly close again. In Williamson County (north of Austin), Biden is at 51/47, he was shooting for 49/48. In Dallas County, he's at 66/33, he wants 68/32.

5:09 PM: In expected but still happy news, "proud Islamophobe" Laura Loomer is going down in blazing defeat in the FL-21.

5:06 PM: The two big "don't panic" lines I'm seeing right now are (a) Trump's performance in Florida is driven by Cubans, who are a somewhat unique demographic without parallels elsewhere in the country, and (b) remember 2018, when Republicans overperformed in Florida, leading to much sadness early on election night, but it didn't reflect goings-on elsewhere in the country. Again, I'm feeling what everyone was feeling -- we wanted a first-round knockout and we didn't get it -- but I'm trying to stay level-headed.

5:02 PM: I wish there was something to look at right now other than Florida, but everybody else is at a crawl. Starting to see some projections that Trump has taken the state -- which, again, feels likely unless there's something disproportionate about what's been counted in Miami.

4:54 PM: Of course, that sort of thinking is exactly the sort of "analysis" that I feel like Florida has sprung every year, and it always breaks my heart.

4:53 PM: Putting aside the always-present "which ballots have been counted" question, I do wonder whether folks are overweighting Biden's apparent severe underperformance in Miami-Dade compared to his apparent overperformance in, e.g., Tampa and Jacksonville.

4:48 PM: Must we do this every time, Florida? Must. We. Do. This. Every. Time?

4:35 PM: Not to keep harping on the Miami numbers, but in everywhere but Miami Biden seems to be doing better than he'd hope. So what's the scoop down there?

4:29 PM: In the IN-5, Democratic candidate Christina Hale is up by about 6.5 points against Republican Victoria Spatz in an open GOP-held seat. Marion County (Indianapolis) is only about a third in, and it is a monster truck for Hale -- she's up 75-23 there.

4:25 PM: The Miami figures are also reflected in the FL-26 race, where incumbent Dem. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell trails by three to Republican Carlos Giminez. If you trust that the presidential numbers will improve for Biden, you probably think they'll improve for Mucarsel-Powell as well. If you think that they won't, well, that's probably one D-to-R flip.

4:24 PM: Just to add to the Florida panic -- Biden is far behind the numbers he'd want in Miami-Dade. Don't know if there's a story there.

4:18 PM: While we're waiting, a feel-good(ish) story about a Florida woman who voted for the first time since her drug possession conviction after Florida voted in 2018 to re-enfranchise ex-felons who've completed their sentence. It was a close thing, since Republican politicians (and judges) pulled out all the stops to try and block people like her from voting, but thanks to good progressive organization her fines were paid off and she was able to submit a ballot.

4:06 PM: The "good" news is that Florida is apparently one of the states that counts its votes fast, so we can perhaps make some decent projections. Several mid-sized Florida counties -- most of which are lean Trump -- have reported at least 70% of their vote, and my quick scan is that Biden is mildly overperforming his benchmarks in all of them. For example, in Lee County (Fort Myers), Trump is up 57/42, in a county that he won 58/38 in 2016 and where Biden is shooting for holding Trump to a 58/40 spread. But again, I'd urge a double-dose of caution -- first, because there might be differences in which votes are being counted, and second, because Florida.

4:01 PM: Every year Florida breaks my heart. And seeing a bunch of "look at the turnout numbers in Miami and Broward" tweets is less giving me cautious optimism and more giving me PTSD.

3:45 PM: A useful corrective regarding the USPS ballot delivery order controversy posted above (at 3:10).

3:41 PM: The one outside competitive play in Kentucky is the Lexington-centered 6th district, where Josh Hicks is challenging incumbent GOP Rep. Andy Barr. Interestingly, Hicks is running about 8 points behind Biden in Fayette County -- he's up 66-33 there. That's the blue part of the district, and unfortunately I don't have county benchmarks for this seat to know where Hicks needs to be in order to overcome undoubtedly heavy-red turf that hasn't reported yet in the more outlying areas.

3:38 PM: Kentucky will not be competitive. Certainly not at the Presidential level, probably not at the Senate level either. Nonetheless, certain parts of Kentucky may shed light on how other, similarly situated places may vote. On that score: With about half of the vote tallied, Joe Biden is currently leading in Fayette County (Lexington) 74-25. Hillary Clinton's margin there was 51-41.

3:32 PM: Different states are going to be reporting at different rates, and so it is important to heed Rick Hasen's warning to not use misleading framing like "leads in early returns" in states where we expect big disparities between early- and late-tallied votes (e.g., Pennsylvania).

3:14 PM: No real results yet, so instead we can speculate that Florida will go Biden on the strength of the "make Instagram about thirst traps again" vote.

3:10 PM: Federal court orders USPS to conduct a sweep for ballots still stuck in the system, postal service says "I would prefer not to." Fun!

3:03 PM: And we're rolling! Indiana and Kentucky are the first states to see polls closed. Not a ton of competitive races in those parts (sorry Amy McGrath), but there is a viable Democratic pickup opportunity in the open Indiana 5th.

Monday, November 02, 2020

Reluctantly Not Being Evil

In Texas, a federal judge has thrown out an effort by Texas Republicans to invalidate over 100,000 legally cast ballots down via "drive-up" voting procedures in Harris County, ruling that the plaintiffs lacked standing. That's rightfully the headline, and it certainly puts this judge ahead of his colleagues on the 8th Circuit, but buried in the middle of the story we read that -- had he found the plaintiffs had standing -- he would have enjoined any further (i.e., today's) drive-up votes from counting. In other words, he thinks the plaintiff's crackpot theory is correct on the merits, he's just bound by technicalities not to give them what they want.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court today reversed the 5th Circuit's decision that prison guards leaving an inmate in a cell overflowing with his own bodily waste and sewage deserve qualified immunity, concluding this was one of the rare instances where even general statements of law could provide fair notice that the relevant governmental conduct was unconstitutional. This is noteworthy on its own, as the Supreme Court virtually never intercedes to chide lower courts for being too willing to grant qualified immunity, but apparently this case was a bridge too far. Justice Alito concurred in the case -- which, again, puts him ahead of Justice Thomas, who dissented without opinion -- but wrote separately to chastise the Court for even taking the case, deeming it a matter of mere error-correction that was not worthy of the Court's time. Again, Justice Alito seems flatly annoyed that he was placed in a position where he felt compelled to be less of a schmuck than he'd like -- and anyone who voted for to intercede in Dunn v. Ray has permanently lost the ability to complain about the Court being too loose in hearing cases.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

A Tale of Two Protests

I don't know if I've said this before, but I think one of the key reasons why the public largely stayed supportive of BLM protesters in the wake of violent police responses is that they occurred just weeks after we all saw right-wing protests over COVID restrictions being met with sober police restraint.

When the far-right began swarming state capitals and government buildings with assault rifles and far-right insignia, screaming about their God-given right to not do the bare minimum to keep their fellow Americans uninfected by a deadly pandemic, the police by and large stood back. They didn't start shooting tear gas and pepper spray. They didn't wade in and start bludgeoning people. There were no mass arrests. And at the time, when all of that didn't happen, I think many more establishment-minded observers viewed that as proof of policing professionalism. "They're doing their job. They don't have to support a protest to defend a right to protest. Even when people are acting manifestly crazy, the police shouldn't escalate the situation. Kudos."

[Remember this photo?]

And then, immediately after, we had another round of protests: this time about the right of Black citizens not to be executed by armed agents of the state (or -- just as bad -- yahoo vigilantes who view themselves as proxy agents of the states). And the contrast in terms of the police response couldn't have been starker. Right after we had a demonstration of how the police could stay restrained in the face of protests if they wanted to, we saw a demonstration of how the police would unleash hell on protesters whose cause they did not endorse. It badly undermined the notion that any of this was about neutral principles of law, or difficult choices in hard situations. It was a choice.

Anyway, a pro-Trump caravan has stopped traffic on New Jersey's Garden State Parkway. But I haven't seen any reports that they've been tear gassed or maced -- probably because they're not presumed liberals marching to vote.

Everybody is seeing the difference. It's a choice.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Cycle of Republican Acquiescence To Authoritarianism

If, in 2014, you had told the average Republican they'd endorse what their party was doing from 2016 to 2020, they'd have been appalled. More than appalled -- they'd accuse you of suffering from a sort of derangement syndrome, of viewing the opposing party in such an implausibly demonic light that it rendered you unable to ascribe even a modicum of decency or principle to one's ideological opponents. From nominating a birther for president to the Muslim ban to trying to nullify legally cast ballots, the story of the past four years has been Republicans acceding to racist authoritarianism in cases where -- had it been pitched as a hypothetical prediction -- they'd have sworn up and down "of course we'd never do that!"

What is going on? The answer is straightforward, and it really does trace back to Donald Trump. Once Trump and his campaign endorses one of these illiberal and extreme actions, two things happen for Republicans deciding whether to endorse or oppose them:

  1. They're put in a position where opposing the action means standing up to Trump;
  2. They're on notice that some significant sector of political elite actors will endorse the decision -- it is no longer the province of the fringe or kooks.
The first factor matters because if there's one thing the last four years have made clear, it's that Republican politicians cannot and will not stand up to Donald Trump. You can find stronger moral backbones in a Bill Cosby Jell-O commercial than in the Republican political class these days. And the second factor matters because it suggests that the action in question may well succeed. It's easy to proudly disavow the thought of stealing an election when you know you won't get away with it. But once it actually becomes a live option, well, then it's a bit more tempting to jump onboard. And even if it doesn't ultimately succeed, the endorsement by a significant segment of mainstream political elites* provides moral cover after the fact -- it becomes the stuff of ordinary partisan dispute rather than an extremist power grab.

And of course, all of this dovetails with the GOP's personal partisan advantage. Put it together, and you have a recipe for Republican acquiescence, one we've seen over and over again for the past four years.

Will we see it once more if Donald Trump tries to steal the election? It's true that just because we've only seen grey ducks so far, that doesn't mean the next duck won't be white. But boy would I not count on the GOP breaking the cycle.

* One of the most frustrating things about how Trumpism has been covered is the refusal of many commentators to identify it as existing as part of elite (in the sense of highly-placed) mainstream (in the sense of carrying considerable public support) politics. When people try to criticize Trumpism, the response often is to act as if his views are "fringe" or "not respectable" or "out there", such that it's a form of nutpicking to even pay attention to them. But they're not fringe! They occupy the Oval Office! They're the dominant force in one of the two major political parties! Trumpism at the moment has far more power in both elite political institutions and mainstream political organizations than does, say, Colin Kaepernick. If you're looking to criticize views that have considerable public influence and purchase, Trumpism should rank far, far higher than whatever example of "performative wokeness" you're currently writing up your forty-fifth column on, and this would be obvious to anyone who remembers that places outside of Brooklyn exist.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Conservatives Think Trans Rights Are Their Wedge To Peel Off Democratic Voters

I made the mistake of donating money to a few campaigns this cycle, and now I'm bombarded daily with emails and texts which virtually all are variants on the theme "we're LOSING and it's your fault for not donating even more money." It is a bit interesting to see how they're varied to try and get you to click open the email though.

Anyway, 99% of these messages are from Democratic campaigns and operations, which makes sense given that I have to imagine everything in every database available to political operatives confirms I'm a liberal. But the other day I did start getting texts from someone who claimed to be a "Democrat working for APP PAC" claiming that Joe Biden is a monster. It gives a bit of a window into what message conservatives think will be most effective at convincing liberal-leaning voters to vote for Trump (or at least not vote for Biden). 

And the answer is: trans rights. All of the texts I've received from this outfit have been on transgender issues (perhaps needless to say, the claims in the messages are lies).

I think I'm going to write back and thank them profusely for sending me this message, claiming I was undecided before but now am firmly convinced to vote for Biden, and hoping that they take pride in knowing that at least one more vote is going to Joe Biden's camp.

Probably stupid of me to even engage, but I need something to pass the time.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Packing Preparation

I continue to think that adding more states is more likely to occur during the next Democratic administration compared to adding more Supreme Court Justices. But it will be controversial, and, following Machiavelli, anything especially controversial should be done at the very outset of one's tenure as a ruler.* What that means is we want any new state admissions to be part of H.R. 1 (which most people already expect to be a voting rights bill). And in particular, we want the new states set to be added to be ready to go on inauguration day.

This is especially important if we want to extend statehood beyond the most obvious candidate, D.C.. Puerto Rico is a complicated case because statehood has been actively debated there and remains controversial. But there seems to be relatively little discussion of statehood for other American territories, such as Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands. Yet if those territories also were ready to announce, on day one of a Biden administration, that they were applying for statehood, it would be much easier to roll them into a larger bill than trying to mobilize them on the fly.

*  Machiavelli also suggests delegating the task to an underling and then, once it's complete, executing him in a high-profile fashion. Not all of his advice is applicable to the modern day.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

2020 Predictions Post!

It's time to put my money where my mouth is! How do I think election 2020 will turn out? I'm going to list my state-level predictions for both the presidential and (competitive) Senate seats. How will I do? We'll find out election day -- or more likely, several weeks after election day!

Presidential (Biden 335 - Trump 203)

Biden: Arizona, Florida, Maine-02, Michigan, Nebraska-02, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin.

Trump: Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, Texas

Senate (Democrats net five seats)

Alabama: Tuberville (R) over Jones (D-inc) [R flip]

Alaska: Sullivan (R-inc) over Gross (D) [R hold]

Arizona: Kelly (D) over McSally (R-inc) [D flip]

Colorado: Hickenlooper (D) over Gardner (R-inc) [D flip]

Georgia-A: Perdue (R-inc) over Ossoff (D) [R hold]

Georgia-B: Warnock (D) over Loeffler (R-inc) in a run-off [D flip]

Iowa: Greenfield (D) over Ernst (R-inc) [D flip]

Kansas: Marshall (R) over Bollier (D) [R hold]

Kentucky: McConnell (R-inc) over McGrath (D) [R hold]

Maine: Gideon (D) over Collins (R-inc) [D flip]

Michigan: Peters (D-inc) over James (R) [D hold]

Minnesota: Smith (D-inc) over Lewis (R) [D hold]

Mississippi: Hyde-Smith (R) over Espy (D) [R hold]

Montana: Daines (R-inc) over Bullock (D) [R hold]

North Carolina: Cunningham (D) over Tillis (R-inc) [D flip]

South Carolina: Graham (R-inc) over Harrison (D) [R hold]

Texas: Cornyn (R-inc) over Hegar (D) [R hold]

Friday, October 16, 2020

Kicking and Screaming: Trump's Path on White Supremacy

Some Republicans, including Donald Trump, are exasperated that people say Donald Trump doesn't condemn White Supremacy. He has, they say, several times. But the crux of the problem was well on display in Trump's latest town hall, where he was asked whether he condemns White Supremacists and QAnon. On the former, he curtly intoned "I denounce White Supremacy" before proceeding to whine that the media isn't asking Joe Biden about antifa. On the latter, by contrast, he was more evasive:

“I hate to say that I know nothing about it,” Trump said. “I do know they are very much against pedophilia.”

Guthrie pressed Trump, describing the group’s delusions. Trump would not accept her description.

“What I do hear about it, is they are very strongly against pedophilia, and I agree with that,” Trump said.

Here we have a classic Trump maneuver. Asked about his various extreme-right supporters, he'll initially refuse to condemn them based on a supposed lack of knowledge, often paired with at least a tacit nod of approval (the only thing he's heard about QAnon is good). If people keeping harping on the issue, eventually he can be dragged -- kicking and screaming -- into a grudging denunciation; but then he simply repeats the game with his next collection of fascist and/or neo-Nazi hangers-on. This is what happened with David Duke ("I just don’t know anything about him", followed by "David Duke endorsed me? OK. Alright. I disavow. OK."), with the Proud Boys ("Stand back and stand by," followed by "I don’t know who the Proud Boys are", and then finally "I don’t know much about the Proud Boys, almost nothing, but I condemn that."), and now, one suspects, we're beginning a new cycle with QAnon.

This is why the "repeated denunciations" don't shut the door on these questions about Trump's White Supremacist supporters, nor should they. The amount of energy that has to be expended to drag out one of these denunciations, and the sulky tone once he finally does it, are themselves indicative. It's Corbyn-esque, in a way -- Jeremy Corbyn surely "repeatedly denounced" antisemitism, but the reason he had to do it "repeatedly" is because before, during, and in between the repetitions he made it beyond obvious that he'd rather do anything but denounce antisemitism. The sort of person for whom extracting these denunciations is like pulling teeth is the sort of person whose sincerity in making the denunciations is going to come under question.

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Man Who Presided over the Fall of the Supreme Court

When John Roberts was first starting as Chief Justice, I remember a lot of commentators describing him as an "institutionalist", someone who was deeply committed to preserving the Supreme Court as a respected, non-partisan fixture in American life.

So I wonder what he's thinking now.  John Roberts is on the cusp of being the man who presides over a Supreme Court whose basic public legitimacy has become so compromised that court packing -- long an obvious non-starter in American politics -- now feels close to inevitable upon a Democratic victory (indeed, in a different sense, has already begun under a Republican presidency).

It's not entirely the Chief's fault. But it's certainly more than one-ninth his fault. Under his stewardship, the conservative faction of the Supreme Court has grown increasingly emboldened in acting as essentially an arm of the political right, with a particular eye towards undermining voting rights in a nation where the GOP has lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. Shelby County is the most egregious example, but the Court has hardly covered itself in glory in adjudicating elections controversies during this administration. At this stage in the game, Democrats are well-justified in worrying that the Supreme Court as its currently constituted (particularly with the soon-to-be rubber-stamped confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett) will not allow small-d or large-D democratic governance -- not because of anything in the Constitution, but because they've committed themselves to protecting perpetual minority rule.

The thing is, I do believe that -- in some non-trivial sense -- Chief Justice Roberts is an "institutionalist" in the way these commentators described, and that the loss of the Court's legitimacy is something he feels as a loss. It's not an act. But all that means is that he is a man who could not rise to the moment history placed him in.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Paper By Ariel Univ. Scholar Rejected Over Whether Ariel is in Israel

This is a very interesting story that pulls me in several different directions.

The thrust of it is as follows: an academic at Ariel University, an Israeli institution in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, had a paper set to be published in the chemistry journal Molecules. As part of the publication, she needed to provide an address for correspondence, and she listed Ariel as being in Israel. The journal asked her to delete "Israel", the author refused, and the journal pulled the paper.

So a few things:

  • Obviously, there's something off-putting about papers on chemistry being (not) published not on the basis of chemistry, but based on geopolitical debates over the proper assignment of sovereign authority in the West Bank.
  • This does not appear to be a "boycott" of Ariel University or its scholars. The journal was willing to publish the article by the professor, with the notation that she taught at Ariel University, so long as it didn't claim that Ariel was in Israel.
  • The article indicates that some activists wanted the journal to go further and require that the address be formatted as "Ariel University, illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel, Occupied Palestinian Territory." But it doesn't look like the journal was going to demand that formulation.
  • Ariel simply isn't in Israel. That isn't me wearing my anti-occupation hat -- Israel has not annexed Ariel (unlike, say, East Jerusalem). So to some extent, the journal is simply enforcing a rule that statements in its journal have to be accurate. It's undoubtedly rare that this comes up with respect to correspondence addresses -- but this is one of those rare cases. The same rule should apply if a far-left writer in Israel proper tried to render her address as "Acre, Palestine". It would simply be inaccurate.
  • In some ways, the journal's proposal was similar to the long-standing American rule that persons born in Jerusalem have "Jerusalem" (rather than "Jerusalem, Israel") listed as their birthplace on their passport. This was famously litigated in the Zivotofsky case. One could argue it's more contentious there because Israel has annexed East Jerusalem (and has relatively uncontested sovereign jurisdiction over West Jerusalem). Ultimately, I'm not convinced that this solution was unreasonable under the circumstances.
  • How does one mail a letter to Ariel University? Must one put "Israel" in the address for the letter to arrive? Can one put "West Bank" or "Palestine" or leave that portion of the address blank?
  • I wonder if there was any explicit or implicit pressure on the author from her university (or the Israeli government) to refuse to accept the deletion of "Israel" from the address. Certainly, the Israeli government has been more than willing to punish academics whom it sees as insufficiently resistant to, or cooperative with, BDS.

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Nobody Expects the Muslim Trump Supporter!

There's a fascinating tidbit in a newly released poll about various religious groups' political opinions: Muslims and Jews hold very similar views about the presidency of Donald Trump. Specifically, for both groups his approvals are in the low 30s (30% for Muslims, 34% for Jews).

The poll is a bit dated -- it was apparently conducted in March just before the coronavirus lockdown, so certainly politics have ... evolved since then -- but it still raises a fascinating question: why does one never hear about Muslim Trump supporters? Compared to Jewish Trump supporters, who seemingly have an outsized presence in the media and in the public eye, one virtually never sees Muslim Trump supporters interviewed in the press, or internal debates within the Muslim community about Trump vs. not-Trump aired. (And it's worth noting that, unlike Jews, Muslims have historically been a lean-conservative voting bloc -- it was only after 9/11 and the immense wave of Islamophobia that poured out of the GOP that they shifted to the Democratic camp).

Why the disparity? Here are some hypotheses, which are just spitballs at this point:

  • Republicans are less likely to highlight Muslim support than Jewish support, which lowers the salience of their Muslim backing.
  • Despite their historically (and consistent) progressive voting patterns, there is a strong narrative that Jews are a politically conservative group (wealthy, White, entrenched and invested in preserving the existing order) which makes people assume that Jews are more conservative than they are.
  • The high-profile nature of Donald Trump's anti-Muslim actions (most notably the travel ban) makes it really hard for the media to imagine "Muslims for Trump" as a live phenomenon, whereas the high-profile nature of his (nominally, at least) "pro-Jewish" measures (e.g., the embassy move) makes it seem plausible that he'd garner a non-trivial proportion of Jewish support.
  • The major Muslim political organizations are decisively anti-Trump in a way that the major Jewish political organizations are not. Jewish Trump supporters have far more prominent positions within the institutional Jewish community than do their Muslim counterparts.
  • The media has less experience delving into the weeds of intra-Muslim communal splits, and so is less likely to pick up on smaller (but still extant) political factions.
Fortunately, I wrote a whole article on the distinctive political status of dissident minorities such as Muslim Trump backers (though I didn't address that example specifically). I'm not saying that it's good that such persons are completely ignored -- I'm curious as to what makes them tick! -- but I do think it's a good thing that our public dialogue does not treat them as if they're equally representative of the Muslim community when they're clearly not.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Is Trump the Republican Jimmy Carter?

I had this strange thought the other night that Donald Trump might be the Republican equivalent of the Carter administration. That is, a failed presidency whose somewhat fluke-ish victory was a blip in an otherwise sustained period of other-party dominance.

The failed presidency part certainly checks out. There's a decent chance that Democrats, if they can win a 2020 trifecta, can sustain power for a long period thereafter (especially if they're smart enough to admit some new states). The demographic trends that made people (too) confident about 2016 still are in force, after all, and it's at least arguable that Trump was the last hail mary gasp of unadulterated conservative White male resentment as a driving electoral force.

The biggest difference is that while Carter was a wonderful ex-President, Trump undoubtedly will be every bit as wretched after being turned out as he was in office.

All that said, I can't help but be pessimistic about what can accomplished in a (knock on wood) Biden administration. That's not a knock on Biden. It's rather a reflection of the sober reality that it will take an inordinate and disproportionate amount of energy and resources by a Democratic administration simply to repair and remediate the mess Donald Trump has created, leaving little time focus on any genuine positive change. Just getting back to square one would be a massive accomplishment, let alone advancing the ball.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

What's the Point of Holocaust Education?

I'm generally averse to comparing things to the Holocaust or Nazism.

There are a variety of reasons for my reluctance, but one major component is that these comparisons often serve as a soft form of Holocaust denial -- minimizing the scope of the tragedy by analogizing it to events that, although perhaps also wrong, pale in comparison to systematic mass murder.

Yet a recent debate over a Jewish Democrats ad which explicitly draws a comparison between Trumpist America and 1930s Germany -- not, it must be said, the actual Final Solution -- has gotten me to thinking (JTA's headline suggests that this ad represents a turning point in the acceptability of Holocaust comparisons -- previously viewed as "off limits". But of course, right-wing Jews have been cavalierly tossing out Nazi comparisons for years now -- if anything has changed, it's that some liberal groups are playing too).

The ad was condemned by several prominent Jewish organizations, such as the ADL and AJC. But it also had some high-profile defenders, including ex-ADL chief Abe Foxman and prominent Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt. The latter often drew an important distinction between comparing what Trump is doing to Nazi extermination, on the one hand, versus the earlier stages of European fascism (anti-minority propaganda, railing against the lugenpresse, ripping down internal checks within the government, and so on). Certainly, the case for the legitimacy of the advertisement was significantly buttressed when President Trump instructed a violent far-right hate group to "stand back and stand by" -- raising the specter of his own group of stormtroopers standing at the ready to overturn the will of the electorate.

The thing is, the Jewish community has invested a lot of time, money, and resources into Holocaust education (both for Jews and non-Jews alike). One would think that the point of this education is to give us the tools to nip incipient fascism in the bud; not to more effectively bemoan a genocide after it has occurred. After all, much of our Holocaust education focuses on what occurred in the run-up to the Holocaust, that is, before the machinery of mass death began to move in earnest. What's the point of it all if those who have been taught aren't allowed to apply their insights?

Of course, even most cases of incipient fascism do not end up reaching the point of Auschwitz. But it is plenty bad to even travel part way down the path. My strong gut instincts cut against using Holocaust comparisons even in these cases -- there are other metaphors at our disposal. But I do want to know exactly what the ADL and AJC and like groups think the purpose of Holocaust education is, if not to use it in moments like this.